Wy Renegade's 30gal Paludarium
After getting some input and doing a fair amount of research, I've started putting together what I hope will be an excellent home for my pair of Wyoming Tiger Salamanders. I've had them for about 2 years now, and their current home is a getto tank created from an old motor home bath tub. It is way too big, and the whole thing is ugly as sin, so it has to go. Based on my research, it appears that the salamanders should have a predominately terrestrial environment, but that in and of itself is rather boring, and I've been wanting to try a paludarium style tank, so this was the perfect opportunity. Unlike the bog, I'm going for looks on this one rather than native, so it will be a evolving mix of terrestrial and aquatic species. The goal is a low humidity/low tech riparium which will be unheated.
The tank is a standard 30gal AGA aquarium (36"x12"x18"). Since my goal is a riparium setting, the tank will be only about 1/3 full of water, so I drilled the tank for two bulkheads.
Filter: ZooMed 501 canister filter
Lighting: Aqueon strip light w/ standard aquarium bulb and an Aqueon twin tube strip light w/ one standard aquarium bulb and one Floraxam plant bulb
Top: standard Zilla center-hinged screen top
The tanks scape will be created using a combination of silicone, Great Stuff Pond Foam, River rock, and cottonwood driftwood.
Aquatic: predominately Ion Brick plant gravel, with a few pockets of aragonite sand to help maintain a higher pH.
Terrestrial; potting soil covered with cottonwood leaves and dried spagnum moss
daphnia, freshwater mussels, hydra, planaria, rotifers, scuds, tubifex worms to start, additional varieties will be added as they are aquired
Western Chorus Frogs x2
Fish will most likely be some type of shiner (possibly Emerald shiners) if I can get my hands on some.
Emergent: Forget-Me-Nots and Mint to start, will add others as I get a chance
Floating: Duckweed to start, hope to add some type of lily as well
Submergent: hornwort, maybe some bladderwort if I can find some
Terrestrial: bonsai plant, moss, native fern, going to try some different orchids, mainly minitures and a lady slipper to start
Started out by drilling the tank with a bit from email@example.com. I drilled two holes, one slightly lower for the overflow and one a little higher for the return. Basically my intent is a closed loop system with the ZooMed canister driving the closed loop. The following day was beautiful so I hiked a few riparian areas looking for some driftwood for the tank, came up with several very nice cottonwood pieces. To create the scape, I placed a few stones, used permanant marker to mark their position and layed down a thin layer of black GE Type II 100% silicone. Once it started to harden, I added the foam and placed my first layer of rock. As the foam hardened I worked my way up, bracing the various stones in place. Once the foam had hardened over night I recoated the edges with the black silicone as my goal is a 100% water tight boundary. Once the silicone begins to skin, I'll add some black aquarium sand to texture it. Then its on to the first water test. Hope to paint the back of the tank black as well to offset the color/texture of the various plants.
So since I know everyone likes photos, here are a few shots of the build getting underway.
The scape begins;
The left side, which will be one of the aragonite holding areas;
The retaining wall/boundary on the right side;
The cottonwood driftwood piece which will become a cave for the salamanders. I've already done some modifying with my skill saw, but appears I have a little more to do;
A piece of cottonwood bark which I hope to incorperate to provide a spot for mounting some miniture orchids;
And a piece of Ponderosa pine that was removed from one of my terrariums that maybe will get added as well;
This is my first fully scaped attempt at a paludarium tank, and I'm open to any and all suggestions on design, fauna, flora, ect, so feel free to jump in and give suggestions or pointers.
Is the area on the right water tight then? What did you use to hold the rocks there? I really like it. I have wanted to do something like this but I never could figure out how to keep water separate from a land area and still look nice.
Yep silicone. Haven't tested it yet to determine if its water-tight as I just added the first layer of silicone. Hopefully by the end of the day I will know if I need to fix some holes or if I'm good to go.
Sanding and Leak Testing
Got some time early this afternoon to go ahead and throw some sand on the silicone;
Also got a chance to leak test - WAHOO! So far so good - can't go all the way yet, cause I still need to get the second bulkhead in and get both of them sealed up;
Pretty stoked that I got it first try!
Pretty sweet dude!
Thanks, I'm pretty pleased so far. Tomorrow I plan to get the bulkheads in place and try out the pump - make sure it works the way I want. Then I'll remove some excess pond foam, and get started on the terrestrial side while I wait for the substrate to arrive.
Bulkheads are installed and leak proof - had to make a couple adjustments along the way. Pump works like a charm, creating a nice ripple effect at the top of the water. Overall water level is a little lower than I wanted because of the gap between the top two rocks, so I'll be siliconing in another small rock between the two which should gain me about an inch of water level. I did find when I was able to fill it all the way up that I did have a leak, so I have some holes to plug to get everything water-tight. Redrained and waiting for it to dry out so I can seal holes and add the rock.
Pump is a bit loud on start-up, but quiets down nicely once it gets going. Overall volume of water is about 5 to 6 gallons - and the pump moves about 70 gallons of water per hour. So the turnover should be pretty good. Overall movement isn't quite as much as I'd hoped for however, so I may have to look at some other fish options. Anybody have thoughts on a type that does well at room temperature - maybe White Mountain minnows?
Anybody know anything about ripple tubes? I've seen some people saying they work great and others saying they don't work at all. Curious if anybody has any thoughts.
Terrestrial side should begin going together this afternoon, although I can't really add any dirt till the wall is 100% water-tight, so that will slow me up a little.
I'm figuring on a base of small rock, covered with a sheet of landscape fabric with potting soil on top. I'm still torn between the potting soil or a sand/peatmoss mix as that might allow for incorperation of some carnivours plants. With the salamanders being such diggers though, I'm leaning more heavily toward the potting soil. I'll also be burying a clay pot which will later be filled with bark and provide a spot for the Lady Slipper orchid. I hope to get the terrestrial part covered in moss, anybody have suggestions on type?
Well I didn't get a chance to work on the terrestrial scape this afternoon. Didn't get have a chance to finish sealing the wall though, so its going to have to wait a bit.
Been working a bit with this aquascaping article below;
Some others have been kind enough to recommend some other plants and fish, so I'll be checking those out as well.
Water System in Action
Ok, finally got all the leaks stopped (knock on wood). Had the system up and running to make sure it was going to perform the way I wanted, so here are a few pictures.
Flow is pretty good - I had to add a rock on the left, as the water was going directly from the inflow to the overflow.
You get a little better sense of the movement from this top down - its coming in on the right, going out on the left, but has to move out to the front and around the end on the left to get to the overflow.
And here's a picture of the canister filter set-up on the back just to give you an idea of what I did. I'll be adding some shut off valves to the tubing when I tear down the tank to paint the back and I'll probably shorten the tubing up a bit as well. Anybody have thoughts on how short I want to go?
Painting the Tank
I used Krylon indoor/outdoor Satin Black to paint both the back wall and the right end wall of the tank. I'm hoping to cover the right hand wall with my bark piece, so didn't want the back side of that visible on the end. I started by setting the tank on cardboard, taping off the plastic rims, and covering parts I didn't want painted with newspaper (sorry about the quality of this shot, didn't realize how hard it is to take and infocus picture of a painted tank, and I only took the one);
The final coat;
I layered quite a few coats on in order to completely cover the glass, but was pleasently surprised by how easily it covered. Being patient and giving plenty of time between coats was key, to getting a nice smooth finish.
And the final product;
If you try this on your own, the only other advice I would give is be careful in taping to keep the tape completely off the glass and when removing the tape be very careful as it may peal the paint. I lost a little around the upper end and then had a really hard time getting it to recover - unfortunately I got a bit of a run on that end as a result.
Now that its painted, I do notice that the paint really makes the scratches and dirtiness really stand out. I don't think I'd paint another one unless it was brand new. I really want to jump in and get the bulkheads back in place and start scaping, but I'm sure I'd mess something up, so I'm going to make myself walk away and wait till later in the weekend or Monday before I do any more.
Loving this so far.
Thank you! So I'm now debating on the terrestrial side as to the soil to use; potting soil or a sand/peat moss mix. I see you are a member of the fraternity of dirt, any thoughts on advantages or disadvantages of soil? Not quite the same, as it won't actually be in the water, but it will be close enough that there is some risk of cross-contamination.
Idk if the land mass is enough for a full grown tiger. They get near 8" long and are way more terrestrial than aquatic....
Great work, can't wait to see the final product
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